TODAY’S PHOTOS ARE A POTPOURI of pictures taken recently in and around the Zócalo. The one above is from the corner of the “blue house” located at the intersection of Matamoros and Tinoco y Palacios streets, just down from “our old house”.

MOVING ON MEXICAN TIME

Thank goodness we have learned to relax. Otherwise, we’d be going crazy by now, as a few major things are – by Yanqui standards – late. The electric work, which we had hoped to have completed by now, has not started: our electrician, whom we have not used for four years, has died; the first replacement couldn’t show up on time; and the current one, who completely inspected the wiring as part of his estimate, has discovered serious flaws in the system which will require the owners’ contributing to the cost, and they were out of town: they returned, as this issue was being put to press, and okayed the work. The ficus tree which grows on the street and hangs over our yard (and covers it with copious deposits of leaves and seeds daily) belongs to the city, and therefore we can do no radical surgery without permission, which has been applied for. We will be able to cut off most of the low branches, hidden by our wall from public view, however.

The most important thing – a telephone – came last week, so we will be instantly interneted. As you can imagine, that is a great relief to me.

We have been sorting our stuff into trash, yard sale, and pack-to-move. The yard sale will take place next Saturday. We took a load of odds and ends up last Sunday, and another yesterday; and have scheduled one more trip for next Sunday. After that, it will just be last-minute odds and ends. We hope.

ZAPATISTAS RALLY PEACEFULLY

About 20,000 people (Narconews) attended the gathering in Oventic earlier this month to mark a new phase in the mass of contradictions and conundrums that is the Zapatistas movement for indigenous autonomy and democratic revolution “from the roots” (John Ross). We reported the changes being proposed in the last Newsletter. There were no major incidents of repression by military or paramilitary forces reported.

EZLN declarations that they would no longer block roads or extract fees for passage were, predictably, greeted favorably by the governor of Chiapas, who also, according to La Jornada, supported the idea of “good governments” in Zapatista territories, even as he denounced the idea of real independence for the villages involved.

Subcomandante Marcos did not speak, choosing instead to broadcast recorded messages to the crowd, and to be the voice of Zapatista short-wave radio.

For more extensive coverage of this, and other topics, keep current with Narco News (http://www.narconews.com)

ROSARIO ROBLES RESIGNS

The PRD was shaken up last week when its’ president stood up and announced that she was leaving her post, due to harassment and a “poisonous atmosphere” created by her detractors within the party. As reported here several times over the past few years, there is a serious split in the party between forces loyal to the old guard and founderCuauhtemoc Cárdenas, and those favoring the ascendancy of MexCity mayor López Obrador. Robles is a Cardenista.

Dogged by persistent rumors of using MexCity public funds to support her campaign for party boss in 2000, and not minding the store sufficiently while other funds drained away, Robles has had much to distract her from her duties toward a party that has not grown noticeably outside MexCity in spite of the fact that the PRI is still discredited for its own mammoth frauds and rip-offs, while Fox’s PAN is losing support because of its’ eagerness to privatize electricity and oil and sell control to the U.S.

Shortly after she resigned, the central committee of the party chose Leonel Godoy as her replacement. Godoy was interior secretary for Cárdenas, and then Robles, when they were governors of MexCity, and then press secretary (a serious demotion: interior is the number two post in any government) for López Obrador, and currently serves in that capacity for Cárdenas’ son Lázaro Cárdenas Batel, governor of Michoacán. Although he clearly owes a lot to the Cárdenas family, Godoy, in his first major press conference after being appointed, declared himself neutral on the subject of who might be the next PRD candidate for president, naming Cárdenas senior, Robles, López, and governor Ricardo Monreal as the front runners.

It should be noted that Robles – and Cárdenas – still have lots of friends on the PRD central committee. Otherwise it would be difficult to explain why they didn’t pick the man who almost beat her in the 2000 election, Jesús (Chucho) Ortega.

MEANWHILE, IN THE PRI

Esther Elba Gordillo, current leader of the PRI Senate caucus, herself a controversial figure having been accused of misappropriating funds from the teachers’ union (SNTE) which she heads, for political purposes – and of generally dictatorial and imperious behavior – just did it again. Her ascendancy to the Senate party whip was not a smooth one.

As the Senators arrived to their hotel rooms for a caucus meeting a couple of days ago, they discovered that they had each been gifted a $2,800 laptop computer in a leather carrying case, courtesy of Esther. Esther denies that this largesse represents either a payment for services rendered or a bribe for future votes, but:

Recent headlines suggest that a new accommodation is in the works between the PAN and the PRI in which the PRI will abandon its’ long-standing opposition to privatizing the electric and petroleum industries. Needed for passage of “energy reform”: the agreement of the vast majority of PRI senators, many of whom campaigned on a no-privatization platform. Many, inside as well as outside her party, are calling the computers part of a blatant attempt to influence upcoming votes. One writer in La Jornada asks, if all it takes to set aside enmity to Esther is a computer, what is the price of a senatorial conscience?

HOW DRY WE ARE

You’d think we were farmers. Everybody’s talking about the weather: it’s got to be one of the worst droughts anyone can remember. August, normally a very wet month, has produced very little rain…

GIULIANI’S LAW

A year down the line and 4.3 million dollars later, the team of urban experts assembled by Rudolph Giuliani, ex-mayor of New York City and current head of his own consulting firm, announced a solution to the problem of crime in Mexico City last week. Not surprisingly, the plan looked just like the one he used in the big apple.

First priority: a shakeup in the police and public security apparatus. By my count, this will be the fourth major reorganization in the last few years. The first step would be a further consolidation of the various ministerial and judicial police forces to resolve jurisdictional confusions. It will be expensive; and morale, if it can get any lower, will suffer.

Included in the 146 points of the report is a plan for the total revision of, and addition of personnel to, the criminal justice system: more courts, more judges, more lawyers, more prisons. Further decentralizing the legal process, starting with giving more power to local police forces, is strongly recommended. How this jibes with consolidation and centralization as described above is unclear to this reader.

Zero tolerance is also recommended. In NYC, that meant jailing vagrants, sidewalk sellers, graffiti taggers, and any crowd of more than a few people who fail to disperse on command. Depending on how you come down on the side of civil rights vs. beautification, it was a success in NYC, but whether or not it will work in the DF may be a whole different story. For one thing, the percentage of people who depend on the street for their living – windshield washers, walking and squatting vendors, musicians, and informal but perennial outdoor markets – may be higher than those in traditional stores and covered markets. With as much as 50% of MexCity’s population living at or below the poverty line, and the economic dislocation in the middle class caused by NAFTA and the current downturn, we are not talking about a statistically insignificant fringe, here. Furthermore, the black market is organized: the last time the police raided the DF’s largest illegal street market, the vendors – and the thugs who work for the bosses that profit from the vendors – drove them out.

Also recommended is a public service campaign to get people to report lawbreakers and defacers of property. This in a country in which, it is estimated, only one third of major crimes are reported, for fear the person taking the report may be connected to the perpetrator.

The cost of enforcement, estimated at hundreds of millions of dollars more if – as MexCity mayor López promises – it is fully implemented, cannot be met within the current budget. The money simply isn’t there. Underwritten with funds supplied by Carlos Slim, one of the richest men in Latin America, and some of his pals, the study may become just another expensive and pointless waste of time.

WHAT DO LENNY BRUCE AND TURKISH BELLY DANCERS HAVE IN COMMON?

Each is a subject of the latest additions to my Memoirs

If you haven’t checked that part of our site out recently, those and other pieces may provide a moment of entertainment, exasperation, disgust, inspiration, or any combination thereof.

A NEW HOME FOR THE FRENTE COMUN

The Frente Común Contra el Sida (common front against AIDS) has moved into new quarters, much closer to the Zócalo, with an expanded condom store. A small grant from Banamex and slow but steady sales of the Ruben Leyva lithograph are giving a much needed boost to the treasury. Next issue, ojala (it should only be) we will run a feature interview with director Bill Wolfe, and announce a new and expanded Frente website hosted by Realoaxaca. Stay tuned.